Michael Field was the shared pseudonym of Katherine Harris Bradley (1846–1914) and her niece Edith Emma Cooper (1862– 1913), who lived together as lovers for some thirty-odd years and collaboratively wrote more than eight volumes of poetry and twenty-seven plays.
Their first collaborations under the name Michael Field were the verse dramas Callirrhoë and Fair Rosamund. (They had previously coauthored a volume of poetry, Bellerophôn under individual pseudonyms.) Published in 1884 to positive reviews, the plays were likened by some enthusiastic critics to Shakespeare’s.
Around 1888, when the two effectively withdrew from society—effectively withdrawing from society and surrounding themselves with an intimate coterie of painters and poets—Bradley and Cooper began Works and Days, the diary of Michael Field that would eventually stretch to two dozen volumes. They finally settled in the London suburb of Richmond in 1899. Here they continued to devote themselves to writing, publishing the vast majority of their plays and poetry during this time, mostly at their own expense and in relative obscurity.
Bradley and Cooper lived expansive lives for unmarried women of their time: they traveled widely throughout Europe, and due in part to Bradley’s outspokenness and gregarious character, in part to their recognized literary talent, the two made contact with—and carried on intense, lifelong relationships with—many luminaries of the day, including John Ruskin, Havelock Ellis, Water Pater, Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the painters Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, the latter of whom provided drawings and decorations for several of Field’s books
In 1907, after a period of intense reflection—brought about by, among other things, the death of their beloved dog Whym Chow—both poets converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1911 Cooper fell ill with cancer and succumbed to the disease at the end of 1913, only to be followed less than a year later by Bradley. Before her death Bradley compiled and edited a volume of Cooper’s poems from around the turn of the century, Dedicated, and published them under their shared name.
Assembled here is a short bibliography of significant works by or about Field:
Marion Thain, Michael Field (1880–1914): Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Fin de Siècle
Margaret D. Stetz and Cheryl A. Wilson (eds.), Michael Field and Their World, proceedings from a conference held at the University of Delaware in 2004
Mary C. Sturgeon, Michael Field, 1922 (available at the Internet Archive)
Emma Donoghue, We Are Michael Field, 2014
Other Selected Poems
Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo (eds.), Michael Field, The Poet (a scholarly edition of poems, diaries, letters, and contemporaneous reviews)
Ivor C. Treby (ed.), A Shorter Shirazad: 101 Poems of Michael Field, 1999 (annotated selection of poems and verse soliloquies)
Emily C. Fortey (ed.), The Wattlefold, uncollected poems
Diaries and Letters
Thomas Sturge Moore (ed.), Works and Days: From the Journal of Michael Field
Sharon Bickle (ed.), The Fowl and the Pussycat: Love Letters of Michael Field
The Michael Field Diaries at the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium (http://vllc.cdhsc.org/the-michael-field-diaries/)
Ivor C. Treby, The Michael Field Catalogue: A Book of Lists
Reviews / Press
"Bradley and Cooper created a completely defiant erotic beast named Michael Field, whom I am grateful to spend some of my nights with. I am gay for him. His work saves my life in the way that only very much alive poetry does. "
—Stacy Szymaszek, from her foreword to Precious against a Precious Thing